Malt powder comes in two forms: diastatic and non-diastatic. Diastatic malt contains enzymes that break down starch into sugar; this is the form bakers add to bread dough to help the dough rise and create a good crust. Non-diastatic malt has no active enzymes and is used primarily for flavor, mostly in beverages. It sometimes contains sugar, coloring agents, and other additives.
London pharmacist James Horlick developed ideas for an improved, wheat and malt-based nutritional supplement for infants. Despairing of his opportunities in England, James joined his brother William, who had gone to Racine, Wisconsin to work at a relative’s quarry. In 1873 James and William formed a company to manufacture their brand of infant food. Ten years later they earned a patent for a new formula enhanced with dried milk. The company originally marketed its new product as “Diastoid,” but trademarked the name “malted milk” in 1887.
Despite its origins as a health food for infants and invalids, malted milk found unexpected markets. Explorers appreciated its lightweight, non-perishable, high-calorie qualities and took malted milk on treks worldwide. William Horlick became a patron of Antarctic exploration, and Admiral Richard E. Byrd named a mountain range in Antarctica after him. Back at home, people began drinking Horlick’s product for the taste. Malted milk became a standard offering at soda fountains, and found greater popularity when mixed with ice cream in a “malt.” “Malt shops” owe their very name to the Horlick brothers.
William Horlick received a patent for malted milk in 1883.